Ford Fiesta 2017 review: A more modern form of popular

£13165
Price when reviewed

The Ford Fiesta is more phenomenon than mere motor vehicle. It’s the UK’s all-time best-selling car, and chances are that you or someone you know has owned one at one point or another. For my sins, I owned a bright green mark 3 Fiesta back in the late 1990s. I called it “The Frog”, it made strange noises and I didn’t like it very much, but I bought it because the interior quality was so much higher than rivals offered at the time.

Much has changed in the interim, not least in my own personal circumstances, but for the Fiesta it’s business as usual in 2018. This most recent edition of Britain’s most popular runabout has scooped an armful of awards across the industry since its first appearance last year (including from our sister title Carbuyer) and the general consensus is that it’s the best Fiesta ever made.

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Ford Fiesta 2018 review: Infotainment and interior tech

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Fiesta is its subtly revamped, slightly more stretched-out exterior; however, the biggest change is to the technology on offer inside. The previous model was launched back in 2012, in an era where a 3.5mm aux jack was a feature to be celebrated and integrated satnav was still viewed as a luxury extra. Conversely, the new Fiesta is the very model of automotive technological modernity.

The star of the show is the most recent edition of Ford’s infotainment and satnav system: Sync 3. We were so impressed with Sync 3 at 2017’s CES tech show that we gave it an award, and not much has changed today. The system is among the best you can get in any car, and it works beautifully in the Ford Fiesta.

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Sync 3 does exactly what you want an in-car infotainment system. It’s intuitive and easy to use. It’s responsive, doesn’t suffer from any kind of lag and integrates smoothly with your smartphone, too, with support for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The large, bright and clear colour 8in touchscreen is positioned in easy reach and right in the driver’s eyeline. And although it’s not the prettiest system to look at, with its powder-blue background and large, sharp-cornered onscreen buttons, it is the very model of efficiency and driver-friendliness. The native voice recognition is surprisingly good, too.

It’s even possible to combine elements of the in-car system and draw selectively on features from your smartphone at the same time. For example, it’s possible to use the car’s audio system alongside your smartphone’s satnav and vice versa. That’s important because, while some features of Google and Apple’s systems are good, others are not.

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I’d take Android Auto’s Google Maps over the Ford’s satnav any day, for instance, but prefer to listen to Sync 3’s DAB radio.

It’s a little more tricky with Apple’s CarPlay system: if you don’t want to use the still-weak Apple Maps, you miss out on using the CarPlay front-end. However, you can still use Siri with a long-press on the steering wheel’s voice button and access your phone’s media by voice control.

The best news for potential Fiesta buyers is that the full-whack 8in Sync 3 system isn’t just limited to the top-end Vignale I tested for this review: it can be added to every model in the range, right from the lowest-rung Style, where it costs £750 extra. In fact, every model above that has some flavour of Sync 3 included, and although the more basic 6.5in system misses out on Ford’s satnav, it still includes support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

And I absolutely love that Ford isn’t ignoring the cheapest model in range. If you can’t afford to spec up to Sync 3, the cheapest Fiesta comes with Bluetooth and USB connectivity (one socket next to the gear stick, one in the centre-console storage box) plus the ingenious Ford MyDock. That’s a fancy way of saying there’s a smartphone mount built directly into the dashboard: just pull it out, pop in your phone, and let it slide back down to hold your handset in place. No more fiddling around with windscreen-suction cups or worrying about your phone falling off on a hot day.

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That makes the Fiesta one of the cleverest, best-equipped, most reasonably priced cars on the road. Coupled with a higher-quality interior and a touch more space for passengers than previous models, this elevates it above much of the competition for the price.

Before I move on, it’s also worth mentioning the Fiesta’s superb B&O sound system. Supplied as standard with the Vignale on test, and available as an upgrade on all models except the cheapest Style, this ten-speaker system is dynamic, exciting and delivers audio with a power and punch that’s truly exceptional. Moreover, the build quality in the cabin means that, even if you crank up the volume as loud as it will go, there’s hardly any panel rattle or buzz to go along with it. In short, it’s worth the upgrade.

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Ford Fiesta 2017 review: Driver assistance and safety tech

Technology in the modern car isn’t all about smartphones and satnav, though. Driver assistance in the form of adaptive cruise control, self-parking and safety systems has become increasingly commonplace in the years since this car’s predecessor was first released. It’s good to see some of these systems making it across to the latest Fiesta.

It’s perhaps not surprising, but also a touch disappointing, to see that the most exotic options are reserved for models further up the range. Not even the top-end Vignale model comes with adaptive cruise control as standard. That’s basically standard cruise control with the additional ability to automatically follow the car in front, but without self-steering.

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I wasn’t able to test the latter as my test car wasn’t equipped with it, but the Vignale did come with the optional self-parking system as well as auto-highbeam headlight adjustment and speed-sign recognition, which mostly worked well. I found that rear-bay parking was hit and miss, with the car often steering far too close to the near-side vehicle for comfort, but parallel parking worked like a dream.

Again, you can add adaptive cruise to any model of Fiesta. It’s also worth noting that all models come with lane-keeping alert and lane-keeping “aid” safety tech. The former provides audible warnings and the latter “steering torque assistance” to guide you back into your lane if you start to drift off line.

The bad news is that adaptive cruise, lane-departure assistance and parking assistance is where it ends, at least when it comes to automation. There’s no “level 2” full-time automatic steering here as is on offer with Nissan’s ProPilot, Volvo’s Pilot Assist and Tesla’s Autopilot systems. There’s also no option for fully automated parking: the Fiesta’s system requires the driver to control the throttle and gear changes, taking charge of steering only. And Ford doesn’t offer the option for a top-down, 360-degree camera view.

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Ford Fiesta 2017 review: How it drives

If the Fiesta’s driver-assistance tech leaves a little to be desired, the drive itself is peerless. The driving position is just about perfect, with the generous steering wheel and seat adjustments accommodating tall and short drivers alike. The finely tuned balance of corner-hugging grip and pothole-beating comfort on offer from the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension keeps the car flat through corners. This is helped by the car’s torque-vectoring system, which helps provide a sense of surety when you’re flinging it around twisty country roads.

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And the 138bhp 1.0T EcoBoost engine seen in this Vignale ensures this car is an absolute blast to drive. It whisks you from 0-62mph in nine seconds, supplying a wonderfully tuneful, three-cylinder engine note while doing so, and there’s plenty of usable torque. I’m reliably informed by my colleagues on Auto Express that the 99bhp version is fun to drive, too.

Even in its more powerful guise, though, the EcoBoost engine is reasonably frugal, achieving up to 74.3mpg in the extra urban cycle, 62.8mpg with city and motorway driving combined and 48.7mpg in pure city driving. Road noise is kept to a reasonable minimum, too, although I did find myself reaching for the volume knob once I’d got the car up to motorway speeds.

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Ford Fiesta 2017 review: Verdict

The biggest improvements in the latest Fiesta revolve mainly around the cabin quality, the interior tech and its driver-assistance features. With even the most advanced systems available either as standard or as upgrades from the cheapest of models across the range, Ford has dragged its everyman car well and truly into the modern age.

The only (small) negative in my eyes is that Ford hasn’t pushed the boat out with regard to driver assistance, only providing adaptive cruise and semi-automatic parking assistance.

To be fair to Ford, few other small cars offer such things, and fewer still do infotainment as well as Ford’s Sync 3. However, the Fiesta is the flag-bearer for small cars in the UK and should be held to a higher standard. It’s still up there as one of the best superminis you can buy, but I’d love it to be even better.

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